I was averaging at least one sleepless night per week. I'd tried just about everything to fix this problem, from limiting screen time before bed to doing meditation. I even tried counting sheep.
None of it worked.
Meanwhile, I keep hearing people rave about weighted blankets, which are blankets filled with evenly dispersed glass beads or poly pellets (weighted stuffing material made from polypropylene) that are supposed to give you a feeling of being tucked in that’s calming to the body. The companies that sell weighted blankets tout benefits including reduced anxiety, falling asleep faster, staying asleep longer and waking up less often during the night.
It’s so important to get enough sleep. Sleeping seven to eight hours per night correlates with health benefits like having a stronger immune system, lower risk of heart disease, reduced stress levels, improved mood, and improved cognitive function. So if you’re having consistent trouble getting enough shut eye, you’re at risk of not performing well at work, coming off as cranky to your co-workers, and getting sick.
How could sleeping with a heavy blanket improve my sleep and give me all those health benefits? The idea has to do with the science of deep pressure touch (DTP), where gentle pressure is applied to the body in order to increase serotonin (that feel-good chemical in our bodies). If you've ever felt relaxed after getting a massage or a hug, it’s a similar concept. There’s even research behind it: One study found that deep pressure touch helped college students with anxiety reach a higher degree of subjective relaxation and suggested this method might be beneficial for calming autistic children.
I like to do my research before committing to trying something new—and while the logical conclusion would be that weighted blankets, like DTP, would help with anxiety, there isn’t much evidence that weighted blankets specifically help with this. "I am aware of only two studies examining weighted blankets and sleep, both in children and adolescents. Neither study showed any objective change in sleep, but parents thought there was improvement and tended to like the weighted blankets," Dr. Rothenberg says.
Some people may get a sleep benefit out of weighted blankets, but they’re not a solution for everyone, says Dr. Lynelle Schneeberg, sleep psychologist and author of Become Your Child's Sleep Coach. She agrees that weighted blankets can be beneficial—but aren't a one-size-fits-all approach to sleep improvement.
"Many people like the feeling of pressure against their body and find this pressure relaxing and calming.” But there are also some cons. "They can be heavy and hot, and expensive," she says.
She wasn't kidding about that last one. Weighted blankets can cost upward of 200 bucks, depending on what brand you decide to go with. After shopping around, I came across a weighted blanket startup that had more affordable options.
Before pulling out my credit card, I asked around to see if a weighted blanket is worth the cost.
“I definitely toss and turn less now thanks to the weight of the blanket,” my friend Christina told me. She’s also a writer, and has the same trouble I do turning off her thoughts when it’s time to sleep. “The weight of the blanket gives you something to focus on, so it sort of forces you to be mindful.”
My co-worker Steve also is a fan. “Since my wife travels a lot for work, it helps with that adjustment period of her weight being gone—it keeps things more even,” he told me, so that the feeling of her not being there is less physically noticeable.
Most weighted blanket guidelines recommend purchasing one that’s about 10% of your body weight (a 150-pound person would want a 15-pound blanket). But because my boyfriend often stays over, I wanted something heavy enough for both of us, so I opted for the 20-pounder.